The White House signalled its satisfaction Thursday with existing Canada-U.S counter-terrorism co-operation, brushing off suggestions that the terrorist attack in Ottawa should prompt tougher controls on the northern border.
"We do have a very important counter-terrorism partnership with the Canadians and we work very closely with them to ensure the safety and security of our two populations," said President Barack Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest when asked if border crossing along the Canada-U.S. frontier needs tougher controls. "That includes making sure the border between our two countries is properly monitored in a way that protects the citizens on both sides."
Debate in the United States on border security usually focuses on the southern border but in the wake of every terrorist incident involving Canada, there are usually calls in Congress to impose tighter controls on what remains one of the longest and most lightly defended borders in the world.
Perhaps in an effort to forestall those calls in the wake of two terrorist attacks – both apparently by radicalized 'lone wolves' in Canada this week which resulted in the killing of two Canadian soldiers – the president and his spokesman have lauded existing Canada-U.S. co-operation.
"When it comes to dealing with terrorist activity, …. Canada and the United States have to be entirely in sync," Mr. Obama said shortly after calling Prime Minister Stephen Harper. "We have in the past; I'm confident we will continue to do so in the future … [and] we're going to do everything we can to make sure that we're standing side by side with Canada during this difficult time."
Mr. Earnest said security agencies on both sides of the border were engaged in close co-ordination as the investigations into both attacks continued.
However, he declined to answer when asked if either of the attackers – both killed by Canadian security officers – had ever visited or attempted to visit the United States.
He also said that Mr. Obama had been focused on the risk of so-called 'lone wolves' – radicalized or self-radicalized citizens or legal residents for years.
"Long before ISIL emerged…. There's been a significant concern about individuals who became radicalized or self-radicalized," Mr. Earnest said, referring to Islamic State by its alternate name, Islamic State in the Levant, and pointing to the Boston Marathon bombing as an example of 'lone wolf' attacks in the United States. "This is a scourge that has struck this country as well," he said.
The message from the Obama administration, at least on the counter-terrorism issue, was that Canada continued to be regarded as a solid ally in fighting Islamic extremism both at home and abroad.
"Canada is one of our closest allies, friends and partners in the world and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in solidarity," Mr. Earnest said, adding: "We've been clear that we are grateful to Canada for its steadfast commitment to countering violent extremism wherever it occurs whether overseas or here in North America."
He also said there was no concern in the Obama administration that the attacks would prompt the Harper government to waver in his decision to send warplanes to join the U.S.-led attacks on Islamic State, the militant group that has seized much of western Iraq and parts of Syria.
"We take Prime Minister Harper at his word when he said Canadians will not be intimidated," Mr. Earnest said, adding it was a "message very well received by the president and the American people."